Café des Sciences: Semiotics through New Media Art

Collaborating with Chronus Art Center and its CAC_LAB, the eleventh CdS event will have Andreas Gysin, a designer from Lugano, Switzerland, to discuss his works on signage systems.

For the eleventh Café des Sciences, we have invited Andreas Gysin, a designer from Lugano, Switzerland and the current residency artist of Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, at Chronus Art Center.

Semiotics is the study of sign process (semiosis), which is any form of activity, conduct, or any process that involves signs, including the production of meaning. A sign is anything that communicates a meaning, that is not the sign itself, to the interpreter of the sign. The meaning can be intentional such as a word uttered with a specific meaning, or unintentional, such as a symptom being a sign of a particular medical condition. Signs can communicate through any of the senses, visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or taste.

Of course, we cannot talk about semiotics without mentioning the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, arguably one of the founding fathers of modern semiotics. He divided the sign into two components: the signifier (or “sound-image”) and the signified (or “concept”). For Saussure, the signified and signifier were purely psychological: their connections are almost entirely arbitrary and hence signs are not so much real substances as abstract forms. For instance, why does the word “dog” refer to the member of the genus Canis (canines), which forms part of the wolf-like canids, and is the most widely abundant terrestrial carnivore that walks on four legs and barks? Why couldn’t the word be “poj”, “mig”, or “ertdfgcvb”? Is it because we have been calling dogs “dogs” since humans have language? If so, who decided dogs are to be called “dogs”? And why can’t we change that? Or perhaps, how do we change that?

In today’s day and age, signs are ubiquitous than ever before. The moment we wake up, we pick up our smart phones that have been charged up by our pillows ready to blast us with another day of information overload: political scandals, corporate jargons, protest signs, advertisement posters, 6 second video clips of loud music and vibrant visuals. And, the most chilling fact is, we are used to them. We crave them. We cannot live for a moment without them because if otherwise, we will stop to be busy. Not busy makes us confused, aimless, and bored. So we constantly seek out visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, or taste signs to tell us what to do, how to think, and pretend to be “productive”.


It is under this context that Andreas’s works become important.

They erase meaning to offer a moment of peace out of the meaninglessness.




Event Rundown


18:00-18:30                   Registration


18:30-18:35                    Welcome Speech
by Dr. Felix Moesner, Science Consul & CEO, Swissnex in China


18:35-19:15                     Presentation
by Mr Andreas Gysin, Current residency artist of Pro Helvetia Shanghai, Swiss Arts Council, at Chronus Art Center.


19:15-19:35                     Q&A Session


19:35-20:30                   Networking Reception



  • Chronus Art Center (CAC)
  • Pro Helvetia

Café des Sciences

Café des Sciences is a new format at Swissnex in China offering a monthly platform for Swiss Spotlight Scientists and Start-ups to present their projects and connect with the local community. The lectures will offer a casual setting in which speakers can present their work and engage with the attendees during a Q&A period. Audiences are welcomed to enjoy the networking reception with Swiss flavour after the talk. The lecture is scheduled to take place every third Thursday each month at Swissnex in China or our partner spaces.

  • Café des Sciences